[sixties-l] John Tinker pledges support for pro-anarchy teen (fwd)

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Date: Thu Dec 06 2001 - 02:38:17 EST

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    Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 22:52:53 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: John Tinker pledges support for pro-anarchy teen

    John Tinker pledges support for pro-anarchy teen

    http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=15460

    By The Associated Press
    12.04.01

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. ^ A former Sissonville High School student
    suspended in October for her anti-war, pro-anarchy stances has
    gained the support of a Vietnam War protester whose famous Supreme
    Court case helped protect students' rights.

    John Tinker made headlines after he wore a black armband at North
    High School in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1965 when an overwhelming
    majority of Americans supported the war effort in Vietnam.

    Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines
    Independent Community School District that Iowa school
    administrators should not have prohibited Tinker and other
    students from wearing armbands to school because they didn't cause
    widespread disruptions.

    The Tinker case became a landmark decision in the history of
    freedom of expression in America, said John Johnson, a Northern
    Iowa University professor who wrote a book called The Struggle for
    Student Rights: Tinker v. Des Moines and the 1960s.

    "It wasn't a popular position at the time, but it was a position
    that had a right to be heard," Johnson said in an interview last
    week.

    About 35 years later in West Virginia, Katie Sierra's lawyer
    argued that the Supreme Court's ruling in Tinker gave the
    15-year-old the right to wear anti-war T-shirts to Sissonville
    High School.

    The school board's attorney, however, called Sierra's T-shirts
    "walking billboards" ^ she had scrawled numerous messages on
    them ^ and a "far cry" from the black armbands Tinker wore.

    Sierra lost round one in her court battle. A circuit judge
    prohibited her from wearing her shirts opposing America's bombing
    of Afghanistan.

    But the next day, she ripped apart some black cloth she found at
    home and trotted into Sissonville High wearing a black armband.

    A week later, she received e-mail from John Tinker. He's 51 now
    and a computer systems analyst living in a former elementary
    school in Missouri. He told her not to back down, to stand up for
    her beliefs and not to lose faith.

    Tinker has pledged to come to Charleston, if need be, to show his
    support. They continue to correspond by e-mail.

    "He said he'd be in the front row of the courtroom," Sierra said.

    Sierra, meanwhile, has faced a barrage of insults. Students
    elbowed her and shoved her into her locker, she said. They spit on
    her mother's car. They shouted "freak" at her. They chanted "USA!
    USA!"

    Sierra said she never intended to disrupt school. She said she
    wasn't seeking attention.

    But with her T-shirts came a request to start an anarchy club.
    During a school board meeting in October, Sierra read a dictionary
    definition of anarchy, which included the word "terrorism."

    In court documents, school officials acknowledged they couldn't
    ensure Sierra's safety, short of putting her in "lock-down." They
    said Sierra's actions had disrupted learning at Sissonville High.

    Last week, West Virginia's Supreme Court refused to intervene in
    the case.

    Sierra's mother, meanwhile, has pulled her from the school out of
    fear for her safety.

    Sierra has enrolled in a program in which she stays at home and
    completes class work on a computer.

    "This girl needs immediate relief," said Dan Johnston, a lawyer
    who represented Tinker and other Iowa students during the 1960s.
    "She's a victim. It's important to get her back into school.

    "The school board has it backward. If they can't control their
    schools, then they need new school officials."

    In Tinker, Johnston successfully argued that Iowa school officials
    had a double standard.

    They allowed high school students to wear buttons endorsing
    political candidates. They also permitted them to wear the German
    Iron Cross. But they banned black armbands.

    At Sissonville High, students have pinned red, white and blue
    ribbons to their shirts since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World
    Trade Center and Pentagon. They have waved small American flags at
    school assemblies. They have worn shirts opposing Osama bin Laden.

    But school officials wouldn't allow Sierra to criticize the
    American government or express her statements for peace. "You
    can't allow one kind of speech and not allow others," said
    Johnston, now a lawyer in New York.

    It doesn't make a difference, he said, that Tinker's armbands were
    "symbolic speech" and Sierra's T-shirts spouted written messages.
    "If the purpose is to convey a message, then it's speech," he
    said.

    Tinker said Sissonville administrators kicked Sierra out of school
    because they didn't like her views. That's wrong, he said.

    "It's the issue of the importance of protecting the unpopular
    view," Tinker said. "That's what makes the First Amendment what it
    is. Otherwise it would just be meaningless."



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